With Michael Douglas’s diagnosis of stage IV oral cancer it has become widely known that cancer of the throat and tongue is now a serious concern. This type of cancer has traditionally been found only in those who smoked or drank heavily. However, today there are increased incidences of throat and tongue cancer caused by the human papillomavirus. Up to 50 percent of the 34,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year are caused by HPV.
You may wonder how Michael Douglas’s cancer progressed so far without being detected. When a tumor is located far down the throat it is very difficult to be seen with the naked eye. Fortunately, HPV positive throat cancer has a higher survival rate and now with the new OraRisk Test the infection can now be detected long before physical symptoms occur. According to the New England Journal of Medicine HPV – squamous cell carcinomas – respond more favorably to traditional chemo and radiation treatment.
Your dentist is the first line of defense in early detection of HPV positive throat cancer. They now have available to them a noninvasive, easy-to-use screening tool for identifying the various levels and types of oral HPV infection. If you are concerned that you may be at risk do a quick assessment of the following:
• Do you smoke or chew tobacco?
• Do you frequently drink alcohol?
• Do you have an occasional cough, sore throat or earache?
• Are you sexually active?
• Do you have a family history of oral cancer?
If you answered yes to some of these questions then you may be a candidate for the OraRisk salivary test developed by Oral DNA lab. If the test comes back positive but there are no visible lesions then it would be monitored over the next six months. Very often the HPV infection can be eliminated by the patient’s immune system. If the test is positive and there are lesions present the dentist would refer you to an ENT Medical specialist.